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Steels that have yield strength levels of 550 megapascal pressure units (MPa) or higher are typically considered to be advanced high-strength steels. For the first and second generation of these metals, engineers were quick to leverage the differences in chemical composition and multiphase microstructures of specific steels to meet the performance demands of automotive components.
Dual Phase (DP) steel, for instance — one of the most widely used advanced high-strength steels — is exceptionally ductile and resists fractures, which allows it to be used in a range of automotive applications, including in structural components. Transformation-Induced Plasticity (TRIP) steels exhibit high malleability, which gives TRIP steel parts a high endurance capacity. Both provide high energy absorption, which makes them well suited for crumple zones.
In contrast, the microstructure of Martensitic steels features increased carbon content, which boosts the strength and hardness of the material but doesn’t increase the weight of components in the same way that a conventional steel part would. Martensitic steels resist permanent deformation, which makes them an excellent material choice for fortifying automotive passenger compartments or safety cages.
New research and developments in the past few years have led to the new, third generation of advanced high-strength steels, which are designed to provide increased combinations of strength and ductility, often at significantly lower costs. While the industry is still working toward a standardized definition of third generation high-strength steels, the typical desired properties are a minimum strength of 1200 MPa and a ductility of 30% elongation — a notable increase over earlier generations of steels.
While they’ve been used for years for automotive applications, advanced high-strength steels have also been increasingly incorporated into other manufacturing sectors. The crash safety features of high-strength steels make them ideal for applications in rail transport systems, for instance.
Advanced high-strength steels have also been found to improve engine performance and speed limitations not only for automobiles, but also for aircraft, ships, and trains. The advanced high-strength steel market is also poised to offer significant energy savings to manufacturers worldwide as methods become more efficient.